The No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats are back from the bye week and will be taking on a familiar opponent Saturday when they host the Vanderbilt Commodores.
The Cats have won each of the last two meetings with the Commodores, but no win would mean more than this one.
To stay alive in the SEC East race, Kentucky needs to handle business in the games they’re favored to win. The Cats are an 11.5-point favorite at home. However, they are some dangerous players they need to contain in order to get a win.
Here’s a look at the four names Kentucky needs to be most aware of.
Quarterback Kyle Shurmur: This will be senior Kyle Shurmur’s last start against Kentucky. The son of New York Giants Head Coach Pat Shurmur is 1-2 lifetime against the Wildcats. He’s a veteran QB, but he’s pretty mediocre.
Last season, he threw for 308 yards and completed 69.8% of his passes against the Cats. But he also threw four interceptions in a 44-21 Kentucky win in Nashville. Coming into this matchup, Shurmur is tied with Mizzou’s Drew Lock for 4th in the SEC in passing yards. He has 11 touchdown passes and five picks.
To slow Shurmur down, the Cats will need to force him to make mistakes and throw interceptions. If not, he could have a big day.
Running Back Ke’Shawn Vaughn: Despite suffering an injury in the Commodores’ loss to Florida last Saturday, running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn is set to play against the Wildcats. Vaughn ranks 6th in the SEC in rushing yards (495), 4th in yards per carry (6.9), and 7th in rushing touchdowns (7).
Vaughn also has 7 receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown on the season. Vaughn sat out last season following his transfer from Illinois after the 2016 season. This will be the first time he runs the ball against Kentucky. He has excelled in the SEC so far, si Kentucky needs to be prepared to slow down this explosive playmaker.
Wide Receiver Kalija Lipscomb: Kalija Lipscomb is one of the SEC’s best receivers. His 560 receiving yards rank 4th best in the SEC this season. The 6’1 wideout also is tied for 2nd in the SEC with six receiving touchdowns, behind only Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy.
Kentucky has done a solid job in containing the junior wide receiver over the last two seasons. In Kentucky’s win over Vanderbilt last season, Lipscomb was held to just 44 yards and two catches, but he did find the end zone. Lipscomb will present a challenge for Derrick Baity and company.
Linebacker Jordan Griffin: Only Alabama’s De’Jon Harris has more total tackles than Jordan Griffin does among SEC players. Not to be confused with Kentucky’s Jordan Griffin, the Vanderbilt senior is a tackling machine and last week he had an incredible performance against Florida. He had 18 total tackles and deflected a pass in a game where Vanderbilt had Florida on the ropes for the majority of the game. The senior recorded 12 total tackles against Kentucky last season, so Kentucky will need to make adjustments and find ways to keep him away from Terry Wilson and Benny Snell.
Vanderbilt will be seeking their first SEC win of the season. However, they have talent on both sides of the ball and Kentucky needs to come ready to play.